"Don't lie to me, Father," said Barbara. "I know perfectly well you heard me when I called." This was a fairly pretty girl, except that she had legs like an Edwardian grand piano. Now she raised hell with him about the letter in the paper. She said he was making a laughing stock of himself and everybody associated with him.
"Father, Father, Father--" said Barbara, "what are we going to do with you? Are you going to force us to put you where your mother is?" Billy's mother was still alive. She was in bed in an old people's home called Pine Knoll on the edge of Ilium.
"What is it about my letter that makes you so mad?" Billy wanted to know.
"It's all crazy. None of it's true!"
"It's all true." Billy's anger was not going to rise with hers. He never got mad at anything. He was wonderful that way.
"There is no such planet as Tralfamdore."
"It can't be detected from Earth, if that's what you mean," said Billy. "Earth can't be detected from Tralfamadore, as far as that goes. They're both very small. They're very far apart."
"Where did you got a crazy name like 'Tralfamadore?'"
"That's what the creatures who live there call it."
"Oh God," said Barbara, and she turned her back on him. She celebrated frustration by clapping her hands. "May I ask you a simple question?"
"Why is it you never mentioned any of this before the airplane crash?"
"I didn't think the time was ripe."
Barbara doesn't believe Billy. She thinks her dad is going a little bit . . . cuckoo. Little green men. Time traveling. Distant planets. If my father started talking like Billy, I would probably consider putting in him Pine Knoll, too. The problem is that Billy is telling the truth, but he has no way of proving it to his daughter.
Any person with ideas that don't conform to the norm are considered cuckoo. A lot of the time, the nonconformists suffer for their beliefs. Some pay the ultimate price. Jesus Christ. Abraham Lincoln. Gandhi. Today celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. Now, King didn't accept the status quo. He questioned, probed, argued, marched. He knew that he was right, and he refused to back down, even in the face of great adversity. Of course, he paid for his beliefs in blood.
I've been thinking a lot about Dr. King today. His courage and moral fiber. Certainly, he wasn't a perfect man. He had his flaws. Everybody does. Yet, his cause was true and right. That's what was important. Dr. King didn't live to see the fruits of his efforts. If it weren't for Dr. King, Colin Powell probably wouldn't have been Secretary of State. And Barack Obama would never have been President of the United States.
On the cusp of the inauguration, I celebrate everything that Martin Luther King Jr. stood for. Equality. Acceptance. Integrity. Faith in humanity.
Saint Marty is grateful today for Dr. King.